In a 21st Century approach to learning problem solving is significant as it shifts the ownership for learning away from the teacher and to the students. All learning activities consonant with 21st Century pedagogy require the ability to analyze and synthesize information. They need to sift through, interpret and make meaning of the information gathered. Doing this through collaboration is even more effective! As they work together students develop new insights and perspectives and synthesize their learning with what they already know. This prepares them to use that information with greater efficacy and confidence.
As Barbra Stripling points out in her article Teaching Students to Think in the Digital Environment: Digital Literacy and Digital Inquiry (2010), students need to read deeply to make meaning because there is “strong pressure from the digital environment to read superficially”. Students therefore need to be given opportunities to think analytically and question what they are finding. She also underscores the need for teachers to focus on skills that encourage student to synthesize information.
Students need to be able to synthesize large amounts of specific bits of information and ideas and weave them into a meaningful whole of substantiated opinions, valid conclusions, and conceptual understanding. Specific strategies must be taught, such as determining the importance of ideas, identifying main ideas and supporting evidence, combining ideas to develop robust arguments, and interpreting ideas in relation to similar and contrasting information.
“Experience only leads to proficiency through practice and practice requires feedback from someone more skilled than you, usually the teacher.”
Stripling, B. (2010). Teaching Students to Think in the Digital Environment: Digital Literacy and Digital Inquiry. School Library Monthly, 26(8), 16-19.